The Evolutionary Social Theory of Julian Huxley
The choice is always ours. Then let me choose
The longest art, the hard Promethean way
Cherishingly to tend and feed and fan
That inward fire, whose precious flame,
Kindled or quenched, creates
The noble or ignoble men we are,
The worlds we live in and the very fates,
Our bright or muddy star.
-- Aldous Huxley, quoted in
Julian Huxley, Memoires
D arwin's revolution caused an awareness in thinking people that, sooner or later, the world would have to come to terms with the implications of evolutionary theory for individual development and cultural change. Haeckel recognized this at once. Spencer launched a noble attempt to accomplish the task, but a reluctance to accept the principle of natural selection crippled his mammoth project. Pavlov made the first real breakthrough when he showed how the conditioning process in animals operates during the individual's life history in a way parallel to the functioning of natural selection in the species over geological time. Henri Bergson picked up on the significance of this adaptive capacity in the mental processes of the individual organism and tried to extend the idea to the evolution of culture. Unfortunately, he was sadly limited by the mysticism at the core of his world view.
Emile Durkheim provided an important sociological and systems perspective for the idea of social evolution. George Herbert Mead took a giant step, integrating the best of Martineau, Spencer, Dewey, Bergson and Durkheim, but his work remained little known beyond the sociology community in the United States. The insights of Santayana were penetrating, but his psychological knowledge was limited to the concepts of Spencer and James.
References for this chapter are on p. 323.